The Broadcasting Commission earned the ire of Jamaican entertainers on Tuesday after it issued a directive requiring broadcasters to immediately prevent the transmission of any recorded material that promotes and/or glorifies illegal activity.
According to the commission, the ban covers the transmission of:
● any audio or video recording, live song, or speech which promotes and/or glorifies scamming, illegal use or abuse of drugs (eg Molly), illegal or harmful use of guns or other offensive weapons, “jungle justice”, or any other form of illegal or criminal activity;
● any edited song which directly or indirectly promotes scamming, illegal drugs, illegal or harmful use of guns or other offensive weapons, jungle justice, or any form of illegal or criminal activity. This includes live editing and original edits (eg edits by producer/label) as well as the use of near-sounding words as substitutes for offensive lyrics, expletives, or profanities.
However, shortly after the commission issued a release with the directive it was raked over the coals by a number of individuals in the entertainment industry, among them outspoken singer Tanya Stephens, who likened the decision to Einstein’s definition of madness.
“Every single time there is great pressure to curb crime or antisocial behaviour some of these very same unchanging heads meet again and roll out the same archaic ban as a ‘measure’,” Stephens states in a letter to the editor published on Page 12 of today’s Jamaica Observer.
“If banning worked, why is there so much more music designated to be banned now?” she asked, adding that what is needed to deal with the issues of crime and antisocial behaviour is “critical thinking and honest conversation”.
Dancehall music producer Romeich, in a social media post, said while he doesn’t agree with glorifying guns or any use of any drug at all, “we can’t stop the creatives (artistes) from singing about what they see around them or grew around”.
He said that Jamaica has one of the strictest regulations against music and asked if a ban is going to be placed on “Apple Music, Spotify, SoundCloud and other platforms where the same people have the same access to the same songs?”
Added the producer: “For example, there are strict regulations against anything sexual (even edited) being played on local radio because children listen to radio… is Jamaica the only country that has children? Because the same children listen to these same songs elsewhere.”
Record producer Tarik Johnston, better known as Rvssian, posted “Good thing we don’t need radio anymore. I can’t remember last royalties they paid me. YouTube d ting deh anyway. This is crazy lol. Let’s just ask them to write the songs too.”
In its news release, the Broadcasting Commission said the directive reinforces its commitment to keeping the airwaves free of harmful content, given the important role traditional media still play as agents of socialisation.
“The use of the public airwaves to broadcast songs that promote/glorify illegal activity could give the wrong impression that criminality is an accepted feature of Jamaican culture and society. It could also unwittingly lend support to moral disengagement and further normalise criminality among vulnerable and impressionable youth, and the young adult demographic,” the commission argued.
The release reports the commission’s Executive Director Cordel Green saying that the ban was the end product of a wide-ranging process that included focused monitoring, decoding of subculture dialect and urban slangs, deliberations on balancing free expression vis-à-vis protection from harm, and consultations with the industry.
“Part of the difficulty in dealing with music, especially that which emerges from a subculture, is that it takes time to identify, understand and verify the slangs and colloquial language used,” the release quotes Green.
“Understandably, new street lingua may take some time before they are normalised, or their meanings become well entrenched. The commission also has to be circumspect in its actions, knowing that regulatory attention can have the unintended consequence of giving exposure to and popularising subcultural phenomenon,” he added.
He also said that while content regulation must always have regard for the right to freedom of expression, any context in which criminality is presented through music or videos as normal behaviour conflicts with the tenets of responsible broadcasting.